What Is Hallux Valgus?
Hallux valgus is a foot deformity that can get progressively worse over time. This article will help you understand what causes hallux valgus and how you can treat it.
Causes of Hallux Valgus
Hallux valgus refers to the condition where the big toe starts to turn inward toward the second toe. The angling in of the big toe often leads to the development of bunions—which are bony lumps that form at the base of the big toe. Bunions can have other causes but are often associated with hallux valgus.
There are several possible causes of hallux valgus. The weak foot structure that usually leads to hallux valgus is often inherited, meaning there is likely a strong genetic component to its development. Inflammation from arthritis in the foot can also lead to the development of hallux valgus.
It’s commonly believed that ill-fitting shoes contribute to hallux valgus and consequent bunions, but that does not seem to really be the case. Tight shoes or high heels may worsen symptoms, though.
Women are more likely to develop hallux valgus than men. The chance of developing hallux valgus also increases with age, but younger people do experience it, as well.
Symptoms of Hallux Valgus
It may take a while to start experiencing noticeable symptoms from hallux valgus. Later, the key signs include:
- Bunion (lump) at the base of the big toe
- Big toe angled toward second toe (or even overlapping second toe)
- Pain or discomfort around the toe
- Burning sensation
- Tender to the touch
- Difficulty moving around or putting weight on your foot
If you start noticing a bony lump around the base of your big toe, you have likely developed a bunion, which is one of the top signs of hallux valgus. It may seem harmless, but a bunion can be a sign of major underlying shifts in the anatomy of your foot.
Diagnosing Hallux Valgus
Hallux valgus is commonly diagnosed from a physical exam and an examination of your gait by an orthopedic specialist. In some cases, your foot might be X-rayed to examine the bone structure of your foot. If the X-ray indicates that there is more than a 15-degree angle between the big toe and the second toe, hallux valgus will be diagnosed.
Treatments for Hallux Valgus
Less severe cases of hallux valgus will often be treated without surgery. Commonly recommended treatment methods include
- Avoiding long periods of standing or physical activity on your feet
- Wearing better fitting shoes that don’t aggravate bunions
- Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers
- Wearing orthotic devices like bunion pads to relieve pressure on bunions
More severe cases may require surgery. There are two commonly performed surgeries to treat hallux valgus.
- Minimally invasive bunionectomy: An orthopedic surgeon will make several small incisions along the base of the big toe. They will trim some of the excess bone causing the bunion on the side of the foot. They will then cut the remaining bone, which allows them to realign the toe and secure the correct position with pins or screws.
- Chevron bunionectomy: An orthopedic surgeon will make a single larger incision on the side of the foot near the big toe through which they will carry out the same procedure of cutting away excess bone and shifting the remaining toe bone into alignment. New bone growth allows the toe to heal and maintain proper alignment.
Treating Hallux Valgus with Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants
If you notice bunions or abnormal alignment in your big toe, it may be time to get an official diagnosis. At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we care about your quality of life and want to give you the best chance to enjoy life healthy and pain-free.
Our orthopedic specialists and surgeons know how difficult it can be to deal with the pain and discomfort of bunions. We take your health seriously and are prepared to meet your needs right away with effective, innovative orthopedic treatments.